Landmark Supreme Court decision lets states force online stores to pay sales tax

forensic evidence flaws supreme court united states washington dc

The online marketplace now looks a lot more like its offline counterpart — at least, when it comes to taxes. A contentious case has reached a rather contentious ruling in the Supreme Court today, and in a 5-4 decision, the highest court in the United States ruled that states can indeed collect sales taxes from ecommerce retailers. The ruling overturns a 1992 precedent that previously prevented states from forcing businesses without a “physical presence” from collecting sales taxes. As a result of this new decision, states will be able to potentially collect billions of dollars worth of sales taxes from online retailers huge and tiny, from Amazon to Avenue.

The ruling comes down against online retailers Wayfair, Overstock.com, and Newegg. The companies have warned that, as a result of the decision, similar companies may have to face around 12,000 local tax jurisdictions, which could lead to some serious chaos. It also means that if you previously turned to the internet in order to get a lower, tax-free price for a product you initially saw in a brick and mortar store, you’ll no longer be able to save the same kind of money. In short: Party’s over.

Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the decision, with support from left- and right-leaning court members alike, including Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch. “The Internet’s prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy,” Kennedy wrote. “This expansion has also increased the revenue shortfall faced by states seeking to collect their sales and use taxes.”

However, Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, dissented, noting that this new tax structure could disadvantage smaller sellers.

“The burden will fall disproportionately on small businesses,” Roberts wrote in his dissent. “The court’s decision today will surely have the effect of dampening opportunities for commerce in a broad range of new markets.”

But don’t go panicking quite yet. As it stands, the ultimate effect of the ruling remains unclear, as online stores will have to gain more clarity on exactly what their own businesses and customers will have to do as a result. Online commerce, of course, is a booming industry, one that is expected to reach a whopping $4.5 trillion by 2021 globally. And as of 2017, 96 percent of Americans shopped online. Currently, the Supreme Court’s decision will only immediately affect South Dakota, who has been trying to collect taxes from e-commerce stores with more than $100,000 in annual sales of 200 transactions in the state.

Of course, we should point out that a majority of the most popular online sellers already collect taxes in almost all eligible U.S. states, as they have local showrooms or warehouses, or due to state laws. The 100 most popular e-commerce stores represent about 90 percent of taxes owed.

Emerging Tech

Replaced by robots: 10 jobs that could be hit hard by the A.I. revolution

According to one study, 47 percent of current jobs in the United States could be automated within the next two decades. Here are 10 examples of the kind of employment that refers to.
Music

Listen up! These are the best movie soundtracks of all time

Whether you're a lover of beautifully composed original scores or a fan of perfectly compiled background music, these are the best movie soundtracks of all time — from Star Wars to Garden State.
Mobile

Police bust a massive interstate SIM card hijacking ring

Law enforcement agents in Flordia and several other states have worked together to break up an interstate cybercrime ring that used hijacked SIM cards to steal cryptocurrencies and cash from victims.
Computing

Intel’s ruler-shaped SSD packs 32TB of storage, aims to redesign servers

Intel now provides what it deems as the world’s densest and totally silent solid-state drive, but you’ll never install it in your desktop PC. Instead, it resembles an old ruler bringing speedy 32TB of storage to data centers.
Product Review

5 generations later, Microsoft's Surface Pro is still the best 2-in-1 out there

At first glance, the 2017 Surface Pro looks like an incremental update to the Surface Pro 4, which was already our favorite detachable tablet. But does the newest version earn its own place at the top of the 2-in-1 heap?
Computing

Apple preps production of updated MacBook Air for a 2018 launch

To reach its rumored launch timeline of later this year for its low-cost notebook, Apple is expected to begin production of its updated MacBook Air soon. The sub-$1,000 laptop could launch as early as September or October.
Smart Home

White-hat Chinese hackers turn Alexa into a spy, briefly

A team of Chinese researchers revealed this week that they were able to use a cracked Amazon Echo to exploit a series of Alexa interface flaws to take control over an unteuched Echo running on the same network.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Computing

What's the best laptop? We've reviewed a lot of them -- and this is our answer

The best laptop should be one that checks all the boxes: Great battery life, beautiful design, and top-notch performance. The laptops we've chosen for our best laptops you can buy do all that — and throw in some extra features while…
Computing

Researchers hack John McAfee’s ‘unhackable’ Bitfi cryptocurrency wallet

Researchers have successfully hacked John McAfee's Bitfi cryptocurrency wallet. Researchers show that the device can be hacked, as they have gained access to the device's private keys and passphrase despite McAfee's security promotion.
Computing

Pricing and lack of content are still barriers against the adoption of VR

A recent survey questioned 595 VR and AR professionals about business growth in the consumer and enterprise markets. Only 24 percent report strong sales in the enterprise while 18 percent show strong sales in the consumer market.
Computing

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…
Emerging Tech

The world’s first practical quantum computer has cash and a timeline

The dream of building a practical quantum computer could be closer than ever, thanks to a $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation to seven universities around the United States.
Computing

Nvidia teases new GeForce RTX 2080 launch at Gamescom next week

Gamers will have something exciting to look forward to next week when Gamescom starts. Nvidia posted a teaser video to YouTube containing hints that it could use the venue to announce the new GeForce RTX 2080 graphics chip.